This weekend I attended my first Fantasycon convention; I've been to a few cons now but this was the first 'overnighter' and so I was slightly nervous as I am often am in groups of people I don't know. But it helped that I knew good friends from other cons were going to be there, in particular my fellow 'failed to find an Indian restaurant in Birmingham' partners Mark West, Phil Ambler, and Steve Byrne, who I knew could be relied on to draw me out of my shell if needed. (Backup plan: beer.) But any nerves were misplaced for it was one of the most friendly, welcoming events I've been to, and all the people I met or re-met over the course of the weekend made it so.
Some specific highlights:
Book Launch: No One Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill
What I was saying about people above? Adam Nevill is a case in point - a thoroughly friendly and welcoming guy, and fellow Robert Aickman fan to boot. (Anyone who likes Aickman is alright in my book.) Adam's one of the most successful horror writers out there at the moment, and I'm a big fan of his work, so a chance to get a signed copy of his new book well before release day was too good to pass up.
A Tribute To Joel Lane
Unlike many people present, I never met Joel Lane, but his short stories were always excellent and if it wasn't for his tragically early death he would undoubtedly have been one of the authors I'd have spent ages trying to pluck up the courage to speak to. A number of authors including Simon Bestwick and Ramsey Campbell read from Joel's work and shared some memories of him. Despite the crap acoustics and loud people at the bar behind us, it was a really very special.
Reading: VH Leslie
VH Leslie's short stories are some of the finest I've read this year, a real class act. For this event she read her story Namesake (you can find it in Best British Horror 2014) and her reading really brought out both the humour and the unease in the tale. I was lucky enough to get the chance to chat with Victoria a couple of times over the weekend; another damn friendly fellow writer.
Book Launch: The Spectral Book of Horror Stories
This was by far the most packed event I attended, and no surprise: the number of authors who were present to sign the book was massive, the signatures & messages in mine not even all fitting onto one page. Here I said hello to online friends Alison Littlewood and Stephen Volk for the first time in person, and finally overcame my stuttering awe to tell Ramsey Campbell what an inspiration he was and is.
Book Launch:The End by Gary McMahon
There was so much going on on the Saturday, but no way was I going to miss the book launch for a new Gary McMahon book. No way. Regular readers will already know how good I think his work is. I also got the chance to buy a copy of his forthcoming chapbook from Knightwatch Press, The Night Just Got Darker directly from Gary in the bar. Given the prices in the con bar, I think it was the cheapest thing I actually purchased in there...
Book Launch: Boo Books/Knightwatch
This was the event where I read from The Place Where It Always Rains from Worms, which seemed to go okay. There were also readings from K.T. Davies (a pleasure to meet, as always), Simon Bestwick (ditto), Allen Ashley, and Reggie Oliver reading Anna Taborksa's stories from Worms.
Food:the weekend also didn't disappoint on this score. Two fabulous pub lunches in The Maltings, which was an nice old fashioned pub (with decoration that included an old sign about where to get treated for VD). A scrumptious evening meal in The Yak & Yeti, apparently Britain's only Gurkha restaurant. And a Saturday curry organised by Phil, where the only thing bigger than the size of the guest-list was the size of the naan breads. Epic naan.
More People: I probably won't remember everyone, but in addition to those above it really was great to chat to Steve Mosby, Jim McLeod, Johnny Mains, Lynda E Rucker, Ruth Booth, Stephen Bacon, Ross Warren, Alex Davis, Terry Grimwood, Paul Holmes, Dion Winton-Polack, Neil Snowden, Sue Moorcroft, Steve Chapman, Neil Williams, Graeme Reynolds, Simon Marshall Jones, Christopher Teague, Robert Shearman, Dave Jeffery, Adele Wearing, Jasper Bark, John Travis...
If I've not mentioned you it's due to my own crapness, don't worry. Or because your pass was on the wrong way round when we spoke, or because you were someone I met exclusively between the hours of 1am and 3am on the Saturday when things were a bit hazy. And speaking of Saturday night:
A Summing Up: The penultimate song at the Fantasycon disco was Elbow's One Day Like This, which finishes with the repeated refrain Throw those curtains wide, One day like this a year would see me right. Which about sums it up - writing can be a lonely business, with the doubts and rejections and long nights, and even the most sympathetic non-writing friend or family member is unlikely to want to talk about our weird stories for more than a few minutes at a time... So chances like this to speak to fellow writers and editors and reviewers feel like something really special to me now, a chance to recharge my creative batteries and go back into the real world all fired up. A chance to remember how lucky I am to be part of a genre I love in some small way.
Okay, the lyrics don't quite fit, but yes: days like this, and all you fab people - you see me right.